Who are you calling a user?

It feels like time for a language crusade – so here’s my latest rant: the word ‘user’ when applied to people in technology marketing and writing.

When you’re writing about technology from an IT perspective, you need some way to talk about, you know, those little people who use the technology that you’re buying. Hence the term ‘user’.  Even apart from the negative connotations, it just seems so impersonal. Worse, it implies a perspective where the important thing is the technology and that the people using it are only secondary.

Lately, it’s been bugging me and I’ve set off on a mission to eradicate it from the writing that comes my way, whether I’m writing myself or editing something already existing.

The catch is, it’s trickier than you might think to eliminate. Sometimes I can easily replace it with words like purchaser, employee, customer, visitor, etc.  Sometimes it’s harder — I’ll put in something really vague like people. And if all else fails, we can always go to the slightly more specific “end user” – at least we’ve eliminated the potential drug-related connotations!

Do you have any favorite words you’d like me to set out to eliminate?

On a related theme, Ann Handley of Marketingprofs has a fun video about “Frankenspeak” in marketing: you can watch it on Youtube.  I find it very impactful, in a synergistic way.


It’s 2011: Your content just got a year older

Guess what? We just flipped from 2010 to 2011, and all of your great marketing content now looks one year older to users scanning the publication dates.

It’s not like marketing content has a ‘sell by’ date like a carton of milk. But it does age, and your customers and prospects will be skeptical of content that looks out of date.  Particularly in the technology industry, everything changes too quickly to invest time and effort in older content.  Readers will be alert for signs of content that’s not worth their time, including:

  • An older copyright date
  • Industry research that’s more than a couple of years old
  • References to events that are no longer fresh
  • The lack of references to important new industry factors

From the technology marketer’s perspective, it’s easy to lose sight of the gradual aging of your favorite content pieces – particularly business-focused white papers or sales guides that have performed well for you in the past.  But it’s worth taking the time, probably yearly, to survey everything and figure out which white papers, customer stories, solution notes and other content need some refreshing or updating.

  • Is the product/company messaging up to date?
  • Are there new product/service features that should be included? Any technical inaccuracies?
  • Are quotes and research out of date? Old research is a red flag that the content is out of date.
  • Are there changes to the format or style sheets that you should integrate now, so the piece looks consistent with everything else?
  • For customer stories, can you revisit and refresh the ‘results’ part of the story?

This kind of update can also give you an SEO boost. Search engines like Google reward fresher content and pages that are refreshed frequently

You don’t have to do it all yourself.  These tasks can easily be sourced out to a freelancer as long as you flag problem areas and provide the writer with updated messaging or product information.

You can also take this opportunity to look for new ways to leverage existing content. As you go through each project, figure out whether you can spin any of the content into different formats, such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Contributed articles
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Videos/screencasts
  • Transcripts for webinars (which offer keyword-rich text for search engines)

By taking this extra step, you can turn a yearly content housekeeping chore into a power boost for your inbound marketing efforts.

Content marketing: A continuing education

Classroom Chairsphoto © 2006 Eric James Sarmiento | more info (via: Wylio)

I’m in the midst of taking the “Content Marketing Crash Course” from MarketingProfs University. It’s a set of 17 live sessions covering topics from optimizing content for SEO to making your content more share-able.

Although I’m learning all kinds of wonderful things in the course, it occurs to me that I’ve been taking my own “slow course” in content marketing since I started working in B2B technology marketing in the mid 90’s. In the B2B space, we all understand and embrace the critical role of content in the sales cycle. We never called it content marketing, but we have been practicing it in one form or another for years.

As I attend the various sessions, I’m struck by a couple thoughts:

The fundamentals remain constant.
At the core of the new best practices in content marketing, the same fundamental principles apply that have always been at work in B2B marketing:

  • Know your customers or prospects.
  • Understand their needs, and then try to meet them. If you’re selling B2B technology, you must align the technology with the business need.
  • Understand the buying cycle and give prospects what they need, when they need it.

The evolving practice of “Content Marketing” puts discipline and structure around these core principles.

The details are constantly changing.
The ways that you execute these basic strategies are in constant flux – hence the value of this course. What worked last year, or perhaps even last summer, may be less effective today. You need an open mind and continual willingness to learn to keep up with the constant changes, including:

  • New channels for interacting with customers and getting your content in front of customers and prospects
  • Changing customer behavior in searching for, researching and acquiring technology
  • New and evolving tools to implement, analyze and optimize your content strategies
  • Changes to search engine algorithms, and their impact on content optimization strategies

Even if you’ve been doing this for many years, this is no time to rest on your laurels. You have to continually read, refresh, and check in with others.

This course is a great way to expand your content marketing skills or refine your existing strategies. The speakers are terrific and the topics fresh and actionable. And because the course is recorded, you can register and attend even after it’s concluded. For more information, visit http://www.marketingprofsu.com/course/59/content-marketing.